Unravel the Lingo


Like in all industries, food and product photography has its quirks and over time some terms are commonly used which should not be taken literally as the meaning behind it can sometimes be completely different! Usually I explain what these terms means when speaking to clients who are new to food and product photography so that we are all on the same page. While some of them are related to photography or the visual arts in general I have explained how it is applicable to food and product photography.


Some Commonly used Terminology


Background plate refers to a shot of the background minus your hero. It has the same camera angle, lighting and composition of your set and is typically used for compositing stills or videos. This is also known as clean plate, shooting plates or plate shot.


Close-up means tightly cropped shot of food or product thereby showing more details of the food or product. It is also often called detail shot or macro shot.


Clean up is literally cleaning up oil spots on the plate or crumbs on the table that was missed out during the shoot in Photoshop and is what I offer in my post production. This is totally different from Retouching whereby you can make a flat burger bun plump again as it requires much more time spent in Photoshop.


Colour Correction occurs when you edit the image’s lighting/exposure and colour temperature/white balance which is different from Colour Grading as that happens when I add my unique style to the image. Note that colour correction is not turning a pink product into a blue product as that would fall under Retouching.


Colour Theory is a set of rules and guidelines that tells us what colours work well together and how they affect our emotions and behaviour. In food and product photography, once we know the colour of the hero food/product we can then come up with various colours that would create much visual interest and choose appropriately coloured props and backgrounds as well.


Composites happens when you use two or more images and combine them into one final image in Photoshop. This is often used when creating levitating food or product imagery or combining a stock image as the background with what was shot in camera.


Go-bys are reference images given by the client that shows the props, lighting, special effects etc that clients would like us to “go by” or as examples for us to create something similar. This could be in the creative brief or mood board that is provided by the client.


Hands in Frame is a great way to add a human element in food and product photography. It works especially well for process shots, lifestyle shots in food and product photography. I send clients a hands in frame guide if they have such shots in their shot list.


Hero means the final perfect dish or food which would be used for the shot. Once the hero shot is done and if the schedule permits, variations can be done if the client asks. Beauty shot or beauty dish are interchangeably used with hero food.


Mark the Plate simply means using wooden blocks or something to mark where the plate is supposed to be before taking it off the set. This is a huge time saver as we would have already set up the camera angle, lighting, props etc for that exact plate position so we can put it back in with the stand-in and then the hero food.


Negative Space or white space is the area surrounding the hero. This space is free from all elements such as props, ingredients etc and allows breathing space for the hero to stand out more. It is also used to add logos or text or graphics that accompanies the hero for advertising purposes.


Overlay is a transparent PNG file that shows some form of artwork such as text or logo. This is commonly used in commercial photography such as in magazine covers or product packaging so that the image shot does not overlap with the overlay.


On White means that the food or product is shot with a white surface (tabletop) and white background. It is used for websites, catalogues and is a versatile option in making your dollar stretch as many different marketing materials can be created in Photoshop using the same image.


Prep Day is when food stylists test out the recipes, shop or cook or bake the food before the shoot day. It is a necessary step when testing out difficult recipes or working with a new product.


Prop Setups typically occurs a few days before shoot day whereby I lay out the props and backgrounds and shoot them together as I cannot bring everything on set for the shoot. I give recommendations for what would look good and clients get to select the most appropriate options for the shoot


Shot List is a list of images to be shot. It has many details such as the name of the dish/food/drink/product, the camera angle for that shot, whether it is a hands in frame shot etc. Note that 1 product with 3 different camera angles would equate to 3 shots. I send my clients a shot list template that has to be filled up and sent back to me before shoot day as part of our planning process.


Specular Highlight is the bright spot of light that appears on shiny or glossy food or products when illuminated with light. It is key to keep the specular highlight on your hero rather than your props so that the viewer’s eye and attention is kept on the hero.


Stand-In means food that we use that is similar in shape and size while setting up the shot. This allows us to set up and sort out the camera, lighting, props etc before bringing in the hero. It becomes extremely critical when working with certain food such as ice-cream that melts quickly or executing difficult actions such as pizza cheese pulls.


It’s A Wrap…

which usually means that we are done for the day’s shoot. Book a free discovery call if you have an upcoming project and wish to speak further. Follow along on my Instagram where I share BTS and sign up to my mailing list so you are the first to know of the latest blog post, announcements and promotions!